The PeaceWorks Annual Meeting March 6 featured table-talk on racism and white privilege. Jim Hannah, secretary of the PeaceWorks board, shared excerpts from America’s Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege, and the Bridge to a New America, by Jim Wallis. Then Hannah posed questions or thought-provokers for the PeaceWorks members to discuss. For example:
— “In what ways are you disadvantaged, or advantaged, by your race?”
— “The author suggests that the ‘bridge to a new America’ will be formed by deepened interracial relationships, and by living in closer proximity. Talk about interracial bridge-builders you’ve known.”
During the table-talk time, Christopher Stohrer said he got insight into his own white privilege when first one and then another of his black employees were out in a car, were pulled over by the police, and were locked up, by mistake. “It would never have happened to me,” he said. The incidents occurred in the late 1980s in Washington, DC, where Stohrer managed a paint store.
In her small group, Debora Demeter said she and her family went to an all-black church, and in the late 1960s, her church and an all-white church developed an integration program. “We had dinner in each other’s houses,” said Demeter. “It helped me. It taught me how to not be afraid of whites.” TV had taught her that whites had sent dogs against blacks and had killed them. In 1968, to help integrate white schools and to have her get a better education, Demeter’s parents sent her to a white Catholic school for 8th grade and, the next year, to a white Catholic high school. Eventually, she asked Alvin Brooks to teach black history to her otherwise white high school class, which he did.
Hannah reflected that the oppressive racism in our country requires action as well as talk. “But talking is an action,” he said. Several meeting participants, among about 60 attendees, said they wished there had been more time to talk.